Front Row Reviewers

The SCERA Center for the Art’s Big Fish Brings Dragons, Daffodils, and Deepening Family Connections

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

Review by Ashlei Havili Thomas, Front Row Reviewers

Dive into the daffodils with SCERA Center for the Arts’ newest musical production Big Fish. Based on the novel by Daniel Wallace and subsequent movie of the same name, Big Fish is an uproarious story that’s both larger than life and as comforting as the cooking of the Deep South where the musical takes place. With book by John August (also screenwriter for the movie) and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, this show is full of enough Southern humor and charm to pull at the heartstrings of even the most grudgingly apathetic theatergoer.

The story of Big Fish revolves around a man and his son, now grown and frustrated by his father’s never-ending tall tales. From a witch telling him his death as a child to meeting a giant and working in a circus to find the girl he’s going to marry, Edward Bloom tells fantastical stories of his life’s adventures, tales so outlandish that his son Will brushes them all off as lies. With their already strained relationship reaching a breaking point, two pieces of news threaten to tip the balance: Will and his wife Josephine are about to have a baby and Edward has terminal cancer. As Will tries to help his mother Sandra go through his father’s files from his years as a traveling salesman, he finds a story his father never told and a secret that may tear his family apart. Can Will’s investigation into this secret confirm his worst fears about his father, or shine a different life on the father he’s distanced himself from? You’ll have to find out at this wonderful show.
Mark Gordon as Edward Bloom is a master storyteller, riveting the audience as he walks effortlessly between his stories, the past, and the present. Gordon gives Edward a sincerity and complexity that could easily get lost in the magic of his constant yarns; Gordon gives all the heart we need to believe that the story Edward loves most is that of a father and his son, ready to “Fight the Dragons” together. Contrasted with Gordon’s Edward is Bryson Smellie as Will, a strait-laced, no-nonsense reporter. Smellie does a beautiful job showcasing Will’s internal struggle between his love for his father and his deep-seated frustration at his father’s seeming inability to give a straight answer. Both Gordon and Smellie’s vocals are mesmerizing, pulling the audience forward in their seats, wanting more.

Christie Gardiner (Sandra) is a steel magnolia, wrangling Smellie and Gordon with Southern charm and a few stern glances. Gardner gives Sandra a tear wrenching strength as she supports Edward through his declining health. Similarly, Hannah Thomas (Josephine) is sweet and gentle, providing support to Smell’s Will and nudging him to try to understand his father before it’s too late. I must mention the phenomenal ensemble cast of this show. It would be impossible to pull off this show without a fully committed ensemble to star in all the marvelous tales Edward tells. Some of the most notable cast members are Adrienne Hansen as the Witch, Lewis Cummins as Young Will, and Anya Young Wilson as Jenny Hill. It is plain to see that the cast of Big Fish here at the SCERA Center of the Arts has so much fun creating the story, the audience can’t help but have fun with them.

No show is possible without an all-star production team and Big Fish is no exception. Chase Ramsey does a wonderful job with his scenic design to create around a dozen various locations with minimal set pieces. Part of this is made possible by using projected backdrops for Edward’s various tales, dropping like ink stains onto the back of the stage. This use of technology in Ramsey’s design creates distinct locales for the audience to connect to the characters. Deborah Bowman does a wonderful job with her costume design to not only create definitive time periods for different scenes but also fantastic creatures that suspend disbelief and entrance. The choreography by Rebecca Boberg is fun and dazzling, with many different styles of dance being showcased, including some amazing lifts that really wow the audience. This choreography works in perfect tandem with the music direction by Allison Books, who also directs the show. Book’s talent as a music director only adds to her work directing this beautiful piece of art as she’s able to meld the story with the music to create an absolute show-stopping production that is not to miss.

While there is a good amount of spectacle and slapstick comedy, Big Fish is a poignant tribute to life and all its complexities. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll contemplate what it means to have a legacy to pass onto the next generation. Big Fish is a show for all ages, creating a wonderful night out for families in the Utah Valley looking to be amazed by the lights and the sparkle but also touched by the heartwarming story of a flawed man trying to be a good father and a son trying to connect with his father before it’s too late. Big Fish is the SCERA Center for the Arts’ last indoor show before they start their outdoor summer season, and creates magic and wonder and hope that the connection from generation to generation is strong enough to weather any storm. Come enjoy this larger-than-life story here in the heart of Utah County at the SCERA Center of the Arts’ Big Fish running now until the beginning of May.

The SCERA Center for the Arts presents Big Fish with book by John August and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
The SCERA Center of the Arts, 745 S State St, Orem, UT 84058
April 12-13, 15, 18-20, 22, 25-27, 29, May 2-4, 2024 7:30 PM
Tickets: $12-14
Box office: 801-225-ARTS
Big Fish webpage
SCERA Facebook page
Big Fish Facebook event
Big Fish promo video

Front Row Reviewers

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